Last week, my beautiful daughter started middle school. I wrote her a letter in hopes of giving her a little extra support during these tumultuous years.
My darling Madeline,
Today is your first day of middle school! What an adventure! I remember my first day of middle school like it was 36 years ago – because it was – and I’ve been trying to forget it ever since.
I couldn’t wait to wear my brand new yellow pants (hey, it was the early 80’s) and sport my super curly hair, thanks to the toxic home perm my mother had given me. Those home perms were very popular back in my day, and while I chose the picture of a young woman with beautiful waves as what I wanted my hair to look like, it turned out something like this:
It was my first real lesson in “Don’t try to be something you’re not.” Fortunately, my hair is inept at holding any sort of curl and I was back to myself in no time.
Don’t get me wrong, precious daughter. Middle school is VERY exciting. New teachers (seven of them!), changing classrooms, your own locker, new kids from different schools… it’s completely different from elementary school. The change is an amazing journey and will impact you for the rest of your life. You’ll make friends now that you’ll hopefully have long into your adult years. And the next major change you’ll make will be when you head off to college. I mean, high school is its own special experience, but the next major step will be trying this whole school thing while living on your own. Thankfully, we have a while until that happens, unless you go all Doogie Howser on me this year, open up a can of genius, and head off to university next year.
Regardless, this year will be amazing. And challenging. Because there’s this fun caveat that “the powers that be” like to throw at us during these years called “puberty.” It’s a hellish experience, but totally necessary in order to reach that all important milestone called “adulthood.” Don’t rush this process! Let it simply happen. It’s traumatic enough to let it occur naturally, so trying to force it is a really bad idea! Take your time when it comes to liking boys, wearing makeup, forgetting about your dolls, and withdrawing from your mother. Yes. Especially that last one. You can skip that one all together! I cherish the closeness we have. I know it will change in some ways, but I hope we can sail through these next few years with minimal issues between us.
Understand now that I only have your best interest at heart. I only want wonderful things for you and, as you mature, you’ll find what I think is wonderful and what you think is wonderful will vary greatly. Just know that I have had 36 years of extra time to process the information that you’re just now receiving. And I’m always right. Always.
Here are some things that I want you to know:
*Skip the drama. It’s never worth it. *Don’t worry about still enjoying your “American Girl” dolls. Chances are that the girls who publicly shun them still like to play with them in private. *Your body will change when it’s meant to. Just because so-and-so already got their period doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you… and you’ll find that once the novelty of that “first time” wears off, you’ll wish you never, ever got it in the first place. I will find you a copy of “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.” by early next week. This should be required reading for all adolescent girls. *Don’t rush finding a crush. Relationships are tough stuff – even as an adult – so focus on loving who you are first. *Someone will hurt you. It’s inevitable. But all you can do is be the best you can be, learn from it, and move on. *You will hurt someone. Hopefully, it’s not intentional, but it will happen. *Never compromise who you are: embrace that you’re deliciously quirky and accept that you’re sensitive. *Find a tribe who loves you just as you are. Trust me, they’re out there. *Don’t “follow the leader” because, at this age, they usually don’t know where they’re going, either. *Dream big but enjoy the daily grind of getting there. In other words, “enjoy the ride.” *Don’t try to be someone else. YOU ARE PERFECT AS YOU ARE!
I have absolutely adored having the last 11 years to watch you become the amazing person you are. You’ve always been a little ahead of the game because of the brutal reality of your brother’s illness, but I know it’s made you a very special young lady. You have a compassionate heart, which I believe will help you make the right kind of friends. People who will love and support you. It doesn’t mean that people won’t hurt you – and the realization that people you think are your friends can hurt you – is a tough lesson to learn. You already know that life isn’t fair. But, I think you have an amazing grasp on who you are as a person, and this will ultimately serve you well.
Oh, and one more thing: I’ve got your back. No matter what, I love you and am proud of you and think you’re AMAZING! I will embarrass you at times (remember where you get your quirkiness from!) but I will love you ALL THE TIME. You got this! And for the times you think you don’t, remember I’m right here. It will be hard for me to let those wings of yours unfold without trying to dry them off for you, but you can’t soar with me fussing over you all the time. I ask for your patience with me. I’m going through a transition, too.
And with tears in my eyes as I send you off on this new journey, know that I am proud of you. Excited for you. Scared for you, but know that you will succeed. Go, little bird. I’ll be waiting for your return with open arms.